Signs of thaw in Congress? Pilot faction MLA says they could attend assembly session

“All we wanted was a change in leadership," said rebel Congress MLA

PTI4_16_2019_000107B Uneasy relation: Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot | PTI

One of the 19 rebel MLAs in the Sachin Pilot camp indicated that they could attend the upcoming assembly session on August 14, where a floor test is highly likely, if the Congress party issues a whip. According to multiple reports, Vallabhnagar MLA Gajendra Singh Shaktawat said that the rebel MLAs have never spoken about quitting Congress and that they will continue to raise their demands from within the party. 

He said, reported The Indian Express: “All we wanted was a change in leadership. A person who worked hard for six years to form the government in Rajasthan, you abuse him by calling him nikamma… This is a battle of self-respect. You are abusing your own family members. We have never spoken with anybody from the BJP. We don’t want to leave the Congress,” said Shaktawat.

The deadlock over convening the Rajasthan assembly ended Wednesday with Governor Kalraj Mishra agreeing to call a session from August 14. The Raj Bhawan announcement came a couple of hours after the Ashok Gehlot cabinet sent a fourth proposal to the governor for summoning the assembly. While the Congress has not mentioned a floor test as part of the assembly agenda, it is widely expected to be held on the very first day; no other Constitutional entity can overrule if the speaker decides so. Gehlot is expected to be in a position of power when it comes to a floor test.

In a sign of thaw in hostilities, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had said he is open to welcoming back the Congress rebels led by Sachin Pilot. Answering queries from reporters, Gehlot said if the Congress high command forgives the dissidents, he will embrace them. Since the power tussle between him and Sachin Pilot resurfaced this month, the Congress veteran has used harsh words against his former deputy, once even referring to him as nikamma or useless. Gehlot said he will do whatever the Congress leadership wants and gave the party the credit for becoming the Rajasthan chief minister thrice.

The chief minister was on his way back to Jaipur after an overnight stay at Jaisalmer’s Suryagarh resort, where loyalist MLAs have been shifted ahead of the assembly session from August 14. The Congress has accused the BJP of playing a major role in the rebellion by the now sacked deputy chief minister and 18 other Congress MLAs who are threatening his government.

 “We have no quarrel with anyone. In a democracy, fights happen over ideology, policies and programmes and not for toppling a government. "Modi should get stopped whatever is going on in Rajasthan,” the chief minister said outside the hotel where the MLAs were shifted Friday. Gehlot and the ministers are likely to spend most of their time in the state capital as the Congress tries to keep its numbers intact in Jaisalmer.

-Inputs from PTI